Back-to-School Stress Busters for Parents

August can be difficult for both children and parents. Fear and anxiety over the new school year, and sadness for summer's end can cause a lot of stress. As families get ready for school, parents can be overwhelmed by the pressure that comes from dealing with children's needs, as well as the daily work and household responsibilities.

Back to school doesn't have to mean back to the crazy life. Help your kids, and thereby yourself, to de-stress the start of the school year. Here are some simple strategies to help overcome common back-to-school obstacles.

First Things First

  • Remain calm. A new school year can turn your child's emotions into a tangled mess of fear, excitement and anticipation. Staying calm and relaxed will allow your child to draw comfort and strength from your attitude.
  • Talk to your children. Discuss their concerns, worries, expectations or fears about going back to school. Have a discussion before school starts, and for the first several weeks of school.
  • Make family time. Take time to relax with your family. Eat your meals together whenever possible and make time at least once a week to do something special together.

Mad Money

  • Check your wallet, and set your priorities. The money you spend on supplies and clothes can add up, and that's just the beginning of the costs associated with school. Don't forget about yearbooks, lab fees, field trips, sports, etc. Prioritize your expenses before you head into the stores.
  • Differentiate between "need" and "want." Make a list of the basic items, but try to be flexible enough to allow an extra amount for a special item your child may want.
  • Create a budget. Think about the unexpected expenses that always seem to pop up and the kids' growth spurts and how you will be able to pay for additional items.

Stressful Schedules

  • Create a schedule. Buy a planner and write down every activity as soon as you learn about it. When you get sports and activity schedules, write down every practice and every game. Make time weekly for the family to review and coordinate schedules to avoid miscommunication and stress later on. Decide what is important and schedule time for it.
  • Just say no. Taking on unessential things can limit valuable time with your family. Before you say yes to anything, decide if you really have the time. Learn to say "no" when necessary. Remember volunteer opportunities can wait, but your family can't.
  • Make lists. Planning and organization are two of the best ways to avoid stress. Make lists of daily responsibilities for everyone in the family. If you keep things organized, you should be able to eliminate a lot of unneeded stress for everyone. Prioritize and delegate whatever tasks you can. You may need to put aside tasks that are not essential to make time for those that are.
  • Make time for yourself. Even just ten minutes two or three times a week of "me" time can help refresh your mood and slow down your body's stress response systems. You have to take care of yourself before you can really take care of others.

Manic Mornings

  • Be the early bird. Being late just adds stress. To ensure you everyone has enough time, get everyone up 15-20 minutes earlier than necessary. Have perks for everyone who is ready early.
  • Prevent problems with prior planning. Several people getting ready at the same time can create a lot of stress. Eliminate as much as possible by choosing clothes, readying backpacks, and preparing lunches the night before.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff. Keep your own stress under control as you deal with the inevitable lost items, forgotten assignments and other seemingly end-of-the-world issues for kids. Children absorb your stress and irritability. Work together to make night and morning routines that work for your family.

Hostile Homework

  • Homework comes first. It should be done before TV, video games, surfing the Internet, talking on the phone, or any other "extras". Make sure the kids know it's a priority. This will help to avoid kids with too little sleep from late night study sessions or the future stress that comes when dealing with missing assignments and the resulting poor grades.
  • Designate a desk area. Set a specific time and place for homework. Eliminate unnecessary distractions so that each child can focus on their assignments in a designated homework area. It doesn't have to be a desk; it can be any place they are comfortable and able to work.

Try to balance work and play. The goal behind these solutions to your back-to-school stress is to allow you to have fun with your children and enjoy this special time in their lives.

We discuss stress relief in more detail in The Program for Heart Health. Download it now and take a nice, relaxed look at Chapter 8 today.

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